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New Study Shows Racially Segregated Schools Not Equal

A new study reports poor performance of minority students, regardless of race or ethnicity, in schools that have mostly minority students since NCLB implementation.

The Center on Education Policy released three studies in June summarizing the achievement of minority students since the implementation of No Child Left Behind in 2002. Each of the three studies—analyzing the performances of African-American, Asian, and Latino students, and named Student Achievement Policy Briefs 1, 2 and 3 respectively— used official data from all 50 states from 2002 to the present.

The key findings of the report include the poor performance of minority students, regardless of race or ethnicity, in schools that have mostly minority students. Also, the report states that poverty, malnutrition, and a lack of family involvement have a profound effect on a student's ability to perform well in school.

Each study, focusing on one particular ethnic group, is broken down by state and shows that the lowest-performing schools are comprised of a majority of minority students, revealing "we've really gone back to segregation," says Shiela Simmons, the National Education Association's director of human and civil rights.

Most Segregated States

Simmons says Illinois and Mississippi are among the most segregated states in the country, with 40 percent or more of their black students attending schools comprised of 90 percent or more black students. In Illinois, 56 percent of black fourth-graders were proficient in reading and 69 percent in math, while 84 percent of white students reached the same level in reading and 93 percent in math. "When you have still basically segregated schools, all things are not equal," Simmons says. "Access to resources, the type of teachers they get, and the wrap around report they get is not going to be equal."

The report focusing on Latino students yielded similar results. Because Latino students already comprise one-fifth of the public school population and are the most rapidly growing demographic, Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, believes this group must be allocated resources to help close the achievement gap, especially because many Latino students are non-native English speakers.

Texas was ranked the most segregated state, with 32 percent of Latino students attending "Hispanic-isolated" schools.

How to Close the Gap

In order to best close the achievement gaps, the report calls for a multifaceted approach focused on improving family school relationships. "We not only have to improve schools; parents and students need to value school more," Jennings says.

Jennings recognizes the need for educators to understand the cultural differences that exist. "We can't presume just because someone is Asian they will do well, or because someone is African-American we should expect less from them," he says.

"We need to realize how many different backgrounds there are within each of these groups." Simmons agrees, emphasizing students come from different socio-economic backgrounds. "That is something the public policy makers and educators in general overlook. They clump them together like there's no diversity within the groups."